Cracking Open the Parables

These are three books that have cracked open the parables of Scripture in various ways for me.

Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed by William R. Herzog II

Herzog is a New Testament professor and a liberation theologian, which deeply shapes how he comes to understand the parables of Jesus. He showed me to see the socio-economic and political dynamics that impinge upon our understanding of these small stories. This book is part parable exegesis, part cultural exploration. You may not agree with all his conclusions about the various elements of the parables, but you will learn to better appreciate the social realities Jesus spoke into and just how subversive his stories really were.


The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus by John Dominic Crossan

New Testament scholar Crossan always teaches me something more about Jesus, his world, the dynamics swirling around the Biblical text. Here he brings his penchant for literary analysis to bear on the form of parable throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. This alone was a discover for me – the parable form in the Hebrew Bible. I learned to see the larger landscape of parabolic meaning – and also fell in love with the Book of Ruth for the first time!


Short Stories by Jesus: The Engigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi by Amy-Jill Levine

Short Stories by Jesus
Levine is a Jewish New Testament scholar and such a strong and funny writer. More than any other she has helped me grasp the essence of the parable in the Gospels – a parable doesn’t state the obvious wisdom, that’s what Proverbs are for, she teases. Parables are meant to disrupt, disturb, leave you with a handful of hard questions. She offers insightful commentary on several beloved parables of Jesus, bringing to the surface questions I never knew were embedded in these short stories. This book is single-handedly revolutionizing my grasp of parables and making me a bit of an addict to this form of pedagogy!


Each of these books taught me something different about parables, about Scripture and about the world that birthed these stories. I highly recommend them to anyone ready to dig into these holy riddles!

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